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TV star's park fined £70k for health and safety breach

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

By Antony STONE

Anna Ryder Richardson

COURT APPEARANCE: Anna Ryder Richardson with her husband Colin MacDougall

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A WILDLIFE park run by TV star Anna Ryder Richardson and her husband has been fined £70,000 for health and safety breaches.

Colin MacDougall, the celebrity interior designer's husband, received a further fine of £4,000 after he admitted two identical breaches.

At Swansea Crown Court, MacDougall, 46, and Manor House Wildlife Park, West Wales, were ordered to pay a combined £111,000 in fines and costs in relation to the case.

Identical charges against Ryder Richardson were withdrawn last week on the eve of a three-week trial when MacDougall, and the company they jointly run, changed their pleas to guilty.

Gruff Davies-Hughes suffered serious head injuries at the attraction when he was hit by a tree bough when it was blown down in strong winds in August 2010.

The 3-year-old spent three days fighting for his life in intensive care after being airlifted to Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

His mother Emme Davies-Hughes suffered head injuries and fractures to her leg, pelvis and arm.

The mother and son, from Llanelli, were among dozens of people visiting the wallaby enclosure at the time.

Judge Paul Thomas was scathing in his condemnation of MacDougall's attitude after the incident.

He said a refusal to close the attraction had seen Pembrokeshire County Council act to order it closed on safety grounds.

In the 48 hours after the event, five potentially dangerous trees were felled in the enclosure where it happened.

Earlier, the court heard that the guilty pleas were accepted on the basis that there was no causal link to the incident.

But the judge questioned why MacDougall failed to act on surveys from an expert who advised action on a number of trees and warned that risk assessments were needed if new areas were opened to the public.

He said: "The defendant, in my view, fell very significantly below the proper standard."

He said that it was "significant" that as soon as expert advice was implemented, all the outstanding problems were quickly resolved.

The sentence was welcomed by Pembrokeshire County Council.

"The sentences reflect the fact that Manor House Wildlife Park and Colin MacDougall failed, over a number of years, to manage the risk posed to the paying public and employees at the park," it stated.

Earlier in the hearing, the court was told that Ryder Richardson had sunk more than £1 million of her own cash into the wildlife park.

The couple also put profits back into the park and were spending £200,000 on a new rhino enclosure.

Bad weather this summer, however, meant profits looked like coming in at closer to £10,000.

Simon Morgan, for the council, underlined the fact that the admitted breaches could not be linked to the incident.

The event had sparked a health and safety investigation which went on to find serious problems with the park's risk management regime.

"There is evidence to link breach with the incident," he said.

"The court cannot be satisfied so that it could be sure that a proper regime would have identified the tree as a risk such that it would have resulted in immediate action, and thereby have dealt appropriately with the risk and avoided the accident."

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  • Chrisc600  |  November 23 2012, 10:16PM

    I'm pleased that the little lad and his mum are recovering well as that is the most important thing regarding this incident. I understand that the tree that actually fell was not one of the trees in that area that had been condemned, so even if the work listed in the risk assessment had been carried out this accident probably would have still happened, having said that that is no excuse for not dealing with the trees deemed at risk as it could have been one of them that had fallen. Much money and effort has gone into this little zoo and it is part of several conservation programs with the animals and it is clear that the owners are passionate about what they are doing and animals. However it was a huge misjudgment on their behalf to postpone work relating to public safety, even so the huge 100k+ fine seems to me to be excessive and could put them out of business which would be a great shame. I wonder sometimes what the courts are thinking when I read on the same page as this story about two youths who broke into the home of an 80 year old and beat her up putting her in hospital for three months in order to steal a few quid and they only get 100 hours community service.

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  • BobDavies2  |  November 23 2012, 7:53PM

    Firstly i hope Gruff & his mum Emme Hughes have made a complete recovery after the accident, undoubtedly the memory of the traumatic experience will stay with them for many years. I have visited this wildlife park, the money and time they have invested in building up what was a run down derelict Zoo, into a state of the art Animal park is outstanding, and full credit should be given to them, their commitment to Animal welfare is genuine, and not just a method of making an income. Obviously there are readers that will say "what about Gruff & Emme" and what they have been through, yes it would have been a horrific experience for both of them and their families, but the general concept of the wildlife park is getting as close to nature as possible, and actively encouraging Children to participate in the hole ethos of nature. If they had known that a tree would cause injury to visitors, then it certainly would have been removed, hindsight is something we all posses, they have rid this ex run down Zoo of its old concrete enclosures etc, and bring it back to nature. I would imagine that their concerns for Gruff & Emme, and their welfare would have been paramount in their minds, even though there has been little mention of this throughout the case. Its balancing H&S with Nature, on occasions difficult.

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  • Neathboy234  |  November 23 2012, 9:30AM

    I hope the little boy is ok now, and i also hope the wildlife park survives. It also goes to show just how important health and safety is.

    |   18
  • geoboy01  |  November 23 2012, 8:37AM

    A 3 year old spent days fighting for his life,and his mum seriously injured and this arrogant fool was more worried about his park,pathetic!!

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